Talking Trivial

Dialogue is important. Without it the entire novel would be a meaningless narrative. Yawn.  But why is writing dialogue so challenging? There are many reasons and I’ve touched on a few, but this time the reason isn’t trivial.

Trivialities in conversation can draw out a scene necessarily. It’s also mind-numbing boring. There are a few reasons trivialities in dialogue suck. One, nobody, and I mean nobody talks like that. Maybe in old sit-coms from the 50’s. Two, it’s probably filler conversation with no actual impact on the story. Three, if you’re watching that word count (even if you’re not) trivial conversation will kill the numbers.

So what do I mean? Let me demonstrate.

Dale sat at his desk in a slump. “Good morning Amber.” 
“Oh good morning Dale.” Amber replied and smiled.
“Did you have a good night last night?”
“Indeed I did, thank you for asking.”
“Was it better than the night before?”
“Yes, it was much better than Saturday night. And how was your night?”
“It was good.” Dale nodded and turned his computer on.
“Oh? What did you do Dale?”
Dale leaned back in his chair facing Amber. “I watched the game with Scott.”
“That’s good that you watched the game with Scott. Did you have a bit too much to drink?” Amber said while swiveling her chair from side to side
“I definitely had too much to drink for a Sunday night. Did you have time to think over our conversation from Friday?”
“I did think things over quite a bit and I have decided.”
“And what did you decide Amber?”
“I have decided to date you.”
“That’s good to hear, so you will give me a real chance?”
“Yes. I will give you a chance. We do have good chemistry.”
“I agree completely Amber. We do have good chemistry.”
“Dale, would you like to go for lunch today?”
“Yes. I would very much like to for lunch today.” Dale faced his computer as Valery approached.
(217)

Did you notice it? Even as I wrote that I was cringing from the repetitiveness. Make that four reasons trivialities are dull to read. Trivial conversation is a complete waste of space and if I come across it in a book my eyes float over the words skipping them or stop reading. It’s hard to focus on a story.  The other annoying aspect is neither have any character, its dry, dull and monotone. Nothing happened other than they chatted about Sunday night and made lunch plans. I think I’ll tidy that up a smidge.

Dale sat at his desk in a slump. “Good morning Amber.” 
Amber smiled. “Oh morning Dale.”
“Were you able to sleep better last night?” Dale turned his computer on.
“Yes thank God.” Amber rolled her eyes. “What’d you get up to? You look like hell warmed over.”
Dale leaned back in his chair facing Amber as she swiveled her chair side to slide. “Yeah, I watched the game with Scott and polished off a six-pack.”
Amber shook her finger at him as if he were naughty. “Tisk, tisk, on a Sunday no less.” 
“I’m paying the price. So did you decide?”
She nodded and glanced around surreptitiously. “You’ve proven we have chemistry so yes,” Her eyes darted about again. “We can be exclusive.”
He grinned.
Amber tilted her head slightly. “Lunch?” She shuffled her chair back into her desk.
“You bet.” He spied Valery approaching and turned to face his computer.
(151)

Whew, 66 words removed. Trivialities really do add the extra weight to the word count. Dale and Amber are not stiff nor are they proper. Therefore slang, jargon and comfortable interaction is necessary. There were only a few things I needed the reader to know, It’s Monday, Amber’s not sleeping well, he’s concerned, she decided to date him and he’s happy about it.

My advice about trivial writing.
Warm it up and relax the dialogue by letting the characters have the reins. Just make sure to keep it individual to the character speaking.

-Sheryl

Other posts I’ve written

Karma. It really is a B*tch

The secret’s out

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Float
Meaningless

A bit of the opposite

Sometimes I find myself wanting to soften up harsh characters by making them somewhat likable… somewhat. That doesn’t mean they have to stay that way, or turn good, but a fun side story needs ups and downs too.  Like Yin and Yang everyone has a bit of the opposite in them. This should be true of those who are inherently bad. Perhaps they have a reason that will tug the heartstrings, or a soft spot, maybe they volunteer at homeless shelters or cuddle abandoned puppies at the pound. Whatever the deed may be they can’t be pure evil. Or at least I don’t like everyone being purely rotten to the core.

This can be tricky, if constructed callously they might come across as smug or the action is unbelievable. If I want to make an antagonist have a slight soft side or a reason for the reader to either identify or sympathize with them, I need to assure I write their situation  realistically so it can fall within the story.

I started off using Cal and Sasha primarily as my blog examples, but Amber, Dale and Scott stepped in to be mighty fine side-story antagonists. Just how bad are they?

Lunch couldn’t come fast enough and it came too fast at the same time. Amber solemnly walked to the restaurant with Dale. He prattled on the entire way even as they were seated in a booth. Like a robot, she ordered what she always did. Penne Primavera with chicken.

“Earth to Amber. What’s gotten into you today?”
“Nothing.” She stuffed her mouth with the savory pasta.
“BS. Either you’re in love or you’ve gotten some seriously rotten news.”
She sneered at him. “Really?”
“Ooh did Scott finally give in to your shameless advances and take a dip in the muddied waters?”
She kicked him hard under the table.
“Ow.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer. “What the hell is your problem?”
“You Dale. God I hate you, what the hell was I thinking.”
Dale scowled. “Shut up you love me and it’s just lunch.”
“I’m not talking about lunch Dale.” She stared hard at him.
“What that drunk one-night stand a month or so ago?” He laughed. “Oh I see you’re hung up on me. Got a little taste and you want more?” He grimaced at the second, much harder kick. “Knock it off Amber or you’re stuck with my bill.”
“I’m stuck with more than just your bill Dale.”
He shook his head. “You’re crazy, what the hell are you on about?”
“I’m pregnant.”
“So who’s the chump?” His laugh died as her eyes widened and lips pursed. “No. No way. You hop from bed to bed like a rabbit in heat.”
“I act like a slut Dale, I’m not actually one. You’re the only possibility.”

He threw his napkin down. “Like hell I am. You’ll have to prove it. Wait.” He frowned. “What are you going to do?”

She looked at her plate. “I don’t know.”

He stared in silence a moment then inhaled loudly. “Do I get a say?”
She looked up with her chin lowered. “Do you want a say?”
“You’re sure it’s mine?”
She nodded maintaining eye contact.
“Shit.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t…” He sighed and tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want you to get rid of it.”
“What?” She wiped her eyes.
“We get along mostly. I’m sure we can figure this out. Why tell me now? Why here?”
“I didn’t plan to. I just.” Amber sniffled. “I have no one else to talk to.”

Dale sat back and looked at her. She looked tired and terrified. She set herself up for the lack of real friends. The ones she has are just as shallow and mean as she is. Or is she? Her raw honesty and willingness to play spiteful games was why he liked her. Did she play along because she was deep down rotten or because she just wanted to play with the cool kids?
“How far?”
She rolled her eyes. “A month and a half duh.”
“You found out today?” Dale picked up his fork and continued eating.
“Yes.”
“Um.” He swallowed his bite. “How does that work exactly? Why not sooner?”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “I missed my last. I didn’t think anything about it sometimes I skip, but.”
“But?” He filled his mouth again.
“I forgot to count and I-” She shrugged.
“You’ve been drinking a lot lately.”
“Not as much as I let on. Just the night I fell and hit my head and the two with Scott after that.” She looked down at her full plate.“I haven’t been feeling well.”
He huffed. “Great. Our kid will be mathematically challenged as well as a compulsive liar.” He reached over and touched her cold hand. “Let’s go for a walk before we head back and after work we can sit and figure this out.”
“I thought you’d be a total jerk about this.”
“Me too.” He dropped enough cash to cover both tabs and tip and led her from the restaurant.

Hmm. Well I guess people aren’t always as we expect. Since none of these people are main characters I don’t need them to shine too brightly one way or another. They have parts in the story, they are the garnish or side dish that makes the rest even better. I wanted Dale who is a nasty, rude all around jerk to have a surprising reaction. Originally I thought to keep him on path and be a jerk to Amber, but this I think was better.

On a smaller scale perhaps I would have them do something kind and random.

My advice about putting a little good in the bad.
I personally think it needs to be there. All good bad guys have a reason, something that drives them to be bad. A good bad guy has a small tender spot for something. If you humanize them, it makes it all that much more conflicting for the readers emotions. They love to hate what they hate to love.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Eyes that carry worlds

Hahaha oops.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Construct

Phony-baloney disguised

Just like two faced people the fakers, liars and the pretenders can also wear disguises. The people also move through life insincere and artificial. Today I’m talking about the kind that put on a disguise to fit in and cover the genuine person they are and deny.

The hiders who wear clothes they hate or act contrary to their personality are often desperate or damaged. They can become very dangerous very quickly if provoked or nudged appropriately and like Two-faced people, the disguised can become nemesis or enemies, villains even if they aren’t already.

Wearing the cloak of deception can be exhausting. This behavior can be as innocent as wanting to fit in, to a deep seeded need to hide their true nature. The quiet nice guy who kept to himself, was never a suspect for Serial killing until he’s caught. The reasons for pretending to be someone your not is vast.

Base reasons for pretending

Shame
Desire
Greed
Fear
Broken Psyche

Examples of why people might pretend to be someone they’re not

Abused as a child or adult
Embarrassed about their interests
Want to fit in to a new group
Want a promotion or new job
Have a bad habit that is illegal or borderline illegal
Ashamed of sexual inclination
Afraid of rejection
Desire for revenge
Double agents
Being forced to be someone they’re not
Anyone with a secret

Often people who are pretending are just trying to get through the day. Pretending to be happy serving coffee to the ass-hat that claims it was made wrong three times just for laughs. While others pretend to be dumb so their friends don’t pick on them. So what happens when the façade starts to crumble or peel away?

Sasha closed her office door and looked at the paper name plaque in her hand. It had been taped over her name on the door. “Ice Queen”.
The walk through the open office area was eerily like a walk of shame. She turned on her monitor and clenched her fists.
“Okay.” She thought a moment how to approach this. It hurt her feelings and sparked her fury. The image of a crown made of ice with tiny icicles was her new wallpaper.  If she went to the uppers it would look pathetic and would only get worse. She would talk to Scott and choose the high road. She always did.
“Oh how I’d love a little payback.” What she was most worried about was anyone at the office finding out the truth behind her standoffish behavior when it came to men. She jumped at the knock at the door.
“It’s open.” She called and stared at the screen.
“Hey can we talk?” Scott closed the door behind him.
“I think you’ve done enough of that already don’t you?” So much for the high road.
“I didn’t tell anyone that you bailed on me.” Scott sighed and rubbed his eyes with one hand. “Look Sasha I like you, I want to…” He threw his head back and then looked at her. “You’re smart, talented and beautiful you can’t blame me for trying. I’m going to warn you, I don’t give up easily.”
Everything Scott said was with purpose. The order of those complements was not a slip.
“Maybe you should save yourself the trouble. I’m not going to date you or sleep with you Scott.” She pointed at the crumpled ice queen paper in her recycle bin. “I’m not feeding that gossip beast.”
“I don’t get it, you’re all confident and distant, then you’re shy and sexy then bam.” He hit the desktop with his hand making her jump. “back to distant.”
“Don’t you mean frigid or cold?” She crossed her arms.
The urge to run home and cry was almost winning.
“Your acting strange lately Sasha.”
The truth was she was having trouble maintaining her aloofness, her casual-self at the office.  Then to make it worse Baylor threw her for a loop and she wasn’t hiding as well as she normally did.
She looked at Scott. He was attractive but he was acting strange too. Or was he? She tilted her head.  Was she not seeing others clearly through her own disguise?
“Sorry Scott it’s not going to happen. If you need help with any other projects we can work on them here. Now if you’ll excuse me.” She opened her desk drawer. “The ice queen has work to do.” The last words came out quietly. The drawer was lined with plastic and filled with ice.
Scott stood to leave. “But Sasha I think-”
She slammed the drawer shut. “Get out of my office Scott.”
“Lunch. I’ll take you to lunch. We can talk then.” He slipped out before she could say no in person.
She glared at the door. “Didn’t tell anyone my royal ice queen ass.” She closed her eyes and the vision of Cal punching Baylor came to mind calming her temper.

Two pretenders with different agendas. One is two-faced, with a personal investment and the other wearing a failing disguise. Sasha’s carefully crafted persona is falling apart. How long until she realizes the costume doesn’t fit well and it’s making her miserable?

Not all fakers are bad, not all of them are good. Most fall somewhere in-between. I’m giving Sasha a hard time because it’s part of her journey. She has to fall before she can get up and dust of the fake present and her shadowed past.

My advice about phony baloney disguises.
Paint that false smile for the spotlight and let it fall behind the curtain. Show the truth in people by the lies they present daily. Tiny or huge, take a chance and let a character develop a veil or tear it off.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Covered up with paint and lies.

Doubt clouds out creativity

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Tiny